While stationed in Boston, her father met his second wife, with whom he had three sons. After being appointed a Boston customs officer, the family settled nearby. From an early age, she adored books and was a precocious reader, devouring Dryden, Pope, Shakespeare, and Spenser. Otis called her his little scholar and instructed her in democratic principles.

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With its classic theme of seduction and remorse, it sparked a great deal of controversy in its time. Yet it remained the most widely read novel of the first half of the nineteenth century.

A 20th-century look at an 18th-century novel From the original review in the Columbus IN Herald, June 6, Susanna Rowson, who wrote Charlotte Temple, had a far more romantic life story than her heroine. She was the daughter of William Haswell, an officer of the British navy.

When she was eight years old she went with him to America. There they lived until the start of the Revolutionary War when a patriotic call of duty recalled Lieutenant Haswell to England. Susanna was married in London in to William Rowson. In — three years after Charlotte Temple was published — she and her husband sailed to America, but the rumor that our streets were paved with gold did not prove true.

William Rowson went bankrupt, after which his wife made the family living as an actress. Susanna Rowson on the true story behind the novel After three years of acting on the American stage, Susanna found that school teaching an writing plays and novels were more profitable and less strenuous than acting.

From the amount of writing she did, she must have been an exceedingly busy woman. Learn more about Susanna Rowson. The plot of Charlotte Temple The story is about the betrayal of an innocent maiden. Charlotte, at age fifteen, is a student in an English bearing school when her friendship with her French teacher, Mlle. La Rue, leads her to secret meetings with two British officers who are about to set sail for America to take part in the Revolutionary War.

The night before she is to be allowed to go home to her family — her father is the younger son of an earl — for the celebration of her birthday, she is persuaded to go with the officer with whom she has fallen in love. He promises to marry her when they get to America.

This promise, of course, is not kept. The officer conveniently falls in love with a girl with far more money than poor Charlotte has. And though he makes arrangements for her care and protection, the man through whom these arrangements are made proves false.

Charlotte is made to suffer and pay over an over for her unhappy adventure. In the end, when her family has learned of her whereabouts and her father is hurrying to save her, she gives birth to a baby girl and dies of malnutrition.

Full of heavy moralizing The plot was undoubtedly threadworn even in its day, but few writers have told it with so much suspense.

Literary fashions of the late 18th century abound in the book. The ladies are forever fainting at the hint of bad news, or are thrown into hysterias. For instance: Great heavens! No woman can be run away with contrary to her own inclination; then kneel own each morning and request high heaven to keep you free from temptation.

Or, should it please to suffer you to be tried, pray for fortitude to resist the impulse of inclination when it runs counter to the precepts of religion and virtue. Trying to resist the seducer At first, Charlotte virtuously determines never again to see Montraville, her seducer, again.

Will you not bless me by an assurance that when we are divided by a vast expanse of sea, I shall not be forgotten? Could I flatter myself that a fear for my safety or a wish for my welfare occasioned it, how happy it would make me.

It is my last request and I shall never trouble you again. Poor Charlotte, through her misplaced fidelity, is first neglected and then driven into the streets, with no one to befriend her.

While on the other hand, the completely amoral Mlle. This hardly seems poetic justice, but on the very last page of the book, in very small print, all is made right: It was said that ten years after these sad events that Mr. Temple were obliged to go to London on particular business and brought their little Lucy with them. They had been walking one morning when on their return they found a poor wretch sitting on the steps at the door. She attempted to arise as they approached, but from extreme weakness was unable, and after several fruitless efforts, fell back in a fit.

But she recovered enough to tell her story it was the former Mlle. La Rue, no longer the rich and powerful Mrs. I am she who turned poor Charlotte out to perish in the street. More about Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson.



FOR the perusal of the young and thoughtless of the fair sex, this Tale of Truth is designed; and I could wish my fair readers to consider it as not merely the effusion of Fancy, but as a reality. The circumstances on which I have founded this novel were related to me some little time since by an old lady who had personally known Charlotte, though she concealed the real names of the characters, and likewise the place where the unfortunate scenes were acted: yet as it was impossible to offer a relation to the public in such an imperfect state, I have thrown over the whole a slight veil of fiction, and substituted names and places according to my own fancy. The principal characters in this little tale are now consigned to the silent tomb: it can therefore hurt the feelings of no one; and may, I flatter myself, be of service to some who are so unfortunate as to have neither friends to advise, or understanding to direct them, through the various and unexpected evils that attend a young and unprotected woman in her first entrance into life. While the tear of compassion still trembled in my eye for the fate of the unhappy Charlotte, I may have children of my own, said I, to whom this recital may be of use, and if to your own children, said Benevolence, why not to the many daughters of Misfortune who, deprived of natural friends, or spoilt by a mistaken education, are thrown on an unfeeling world without the least power to defend themselves from the snares not only of the other sex, but from the more dangerous arts of the profligate of their own. Sensible as I am that a novel writer, at a time when such a variety of works are ushered into the world under that name, stands but a poor chance for fame in the annals of literature, but conscious that I wrote with a mind anxious for the happiness of that sex whose morals and conduct have so powerful an influence on mankind in general; and convinced that I have not wrote a line that conveys a wrong idea to the head or a corrupt wish to the heart, I shall rest satisfied in the purity of my own intentions, and if I merit not applause, I feel that I dread not censure.


Susanna Rowson

While stationed in Boston her father remarried to Rachel Woodward and started a second family, and after his ship returned to Portsmouth and was decommissioned, he obtained an appointment as a Boston customs officer, bringing his daughter and a servant with him to Massachusetts. On arrival in January , their ship grounded on Lovells Island in Boston Harbor , the crew and passengers being rescued from the wreck days later. At the outbreak of the American Revolution , Lieutenant Haswell was placed under house arrest , and subsequently the family was moved inland, to Hingham and Abington, Massachusetts. In , his failing health led to a prisoner exchange , and the family was sent via Halifax , Nova Scotia to England, eventually settling near Kingston upon Hull. Their American property was confiscated and they lived in relative poverty, being forced to sell the Portsmouth property left Susanna by her grandfather in order to support the family. On 17 October of the same year, she married William Rowson, a hardware merchant who came from a theatrical family [3] as well as reportedly being a Royal Horse Guards trumpeter.

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